Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels - Part Four

Getting one of these games in your stocking might make most of you wish you would have gotten coal instead! Games disappoint for all sorts of reasons, whether they're low quality, broken either mechanically or technically -- whatever you can think of, but the ones that follow up games that you really enjoyed might be the toughest to swallow. Imagine loving a game so much that you yearn for a sequel, and the sequel given to you is... less than spectacular -- and that's putting it mildly. That's what The Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels is all about, and we've reached Part Four of our tour of mediocre sequels. This edition we delve in to three 2017 releases as well as some ghosts of game sequels past.

Once you check out the latest entries on this list, explore the past three parts of this ongoing series, and sound off on which games you'd like to see added to future installments.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, XB1, PC)

One's hype can be vanquished in an instant due to someone or somebody's greed. I was seriously hyped for Star Wars Battlefront II from EA and DICE due to the original PS2 Star Wars Battlefront games being my favorite Star Wars-related games of all time, next to Rogue Squadron. But like I said, hype can come crashing down to the ground in an instant like an AT-AT tied up by a snowspeeder's cable.

I have a select few multiplayer games I enjoy playing online. Star Wars Battlefront II looked to be one of them, but EA wanted players like me to fork out not just $60 to own the game, but even more money just to stand a fighting chance online. With pay-to-win loot boxes, that is exactly what EA had in store for players. It's a case of greed at its most distilled in gaming -- putting spending money over the actual balance of gameplay.

It was a decision that made me completely forgo looking into getting Star Wars Battlefront II, and I certainly wasn't alone in that decision either. The situation got so bad for EA that it decided to take loot boxes out of the game temporarily. To my cynical mind, it's merely to buy time for EA to decide a "better" solution that doesn't draw the publisher as much ire and bad publicity. Despite knowing that the actual gameplay of the newest Star Wars Battlefront is of good quality, I also know that I can't trust EA with its handling of this game.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4, XB1, PC)

Together, EA and BioWare have seen a lot of success with the Mass Effect franchise. The trilogy sold remarkably well and was a critical darling. Until Mass Effect: Andromeda, the last Mass Effect game released was Mass Effect 3 in 2012. All the waiting, all the excitement, and all of the hype around the newest game in the Mass Effect franchise led to...

A dud. Mass Effect: Andromeda has become one of the big jokes of 2017, unfortunately, and primarily so due to being mired with a look of inconsistency. The game isn't broken from a gameplay metric, thankfully, but it can definitely be argued that it was initially from a technical one. From its one-week-early release to EA Origin members, myriad clips, videos, and GIFs poked fun at a plethora of creepy and bizarre facial animations that brought up some serious uncanny valley imagery. Bugs, glitches, and freezes plagued Andromeda from its release as well, making the massively budgeted Mass Effect: Andromeda another tale of an AAA game that was too big of a production for its own good.

As a series now, Mass Effect is in a state of limbo as a result of the negative commercial and critical reception to Andromeda. It would be quite a shame to see a franchise that seemed to always be of high quality get put on a long hiatus because of just one game. Then again, as we've seen with studios closing and franchises ending, all it takes is one game in this era of the video games industry.

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (PS4, XB1, PC)

With this next game on the edition of Most Disappointing Video Game Sequels, we finally leave EA alone and focus on Capcom. Well, Marvel and Capcom, to be exact. The latest game in the fabled fighting game crossover, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite released this past fall, and it has a lot of good parts to it. The new improvements to the core mechanics of the series, such as the updated means to tag in allies, meant new means in increasing combos and damage output. The addition of the Infinity Stones added some new ways of interacting with opposing fighters and incorporating differing strategies as well.

However, not all was well with the new Marvel vs. Capcom, as evident by Infinite being on a list of most disappointing video game sequels. The most obvious of issues plagued every trailer and screenshot of the game. It was its presentation, offering drab visuals, "off" character designs, and just a flat look to it -- completely spitting in the face of what past Marvel vs. Capcom games possessed, whether the sharp 2D visuals and animations in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, or even the most release, the gorgeous cel-shaded comic book graphics of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Then, there was the starting roster that was just begging to be ripped to shreds by critics and fans alike. Notable omissions like the 20th Century Fox-owned characters and even those Marvel vs. Capcom characters that were present in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 but mysteriously absent from Infinite's roster also disappointed. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite made for a package that was not hard to take a pass on at launch with its full MSRP, and it seems that many did just that according to Capcom's missed projected sales target for the game.

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Now this one hurts for me to add to this list. While I personally enjoyed Star Fox Zero on the Wii U, it's no question that many people couldn't get their heads around using both a TV screen and the Wii U GamePad for different viewing angles. With the TV, Fox McCloud's vehicle such as the flight-based Arwing was shown, and with the GamePad, the vehicle's line of sight could be altered in a way otherwise impossible with a standard control setup. You could physically (and slightly) move the Wii U GamePad to alter the aim of your Arwing, Landmaster, or what have you. No longer did you have to point the tip of your ship towards enemies. You could unleash missiles and laser fire on them even if they were off the TV screen, a difficult proposition in Star Fox 64.

However, in using such a complex control, movement, and aiming scheme, Nintendo and Platinum Games really isolated many players from having full enjoyment with Star Fox Zero. This led to not only poor critical and fan feedback but also less than stellar sales, and we're already talking about a game that released on the already struggling Wii U that was furthermore on its way out.

Thus, not only may the Star Fox series not get a new sequel in the near future due to low sales, but what we even got out of Star Fox Zero was yet another retelling of the original Star Fox's story. It was hardly uncharted territory for the series, and going through the same story meant that no major new plot threads were expanded on. Now, we'll have to hope Shigeru Miyamoto and whomever else at Nintendo have a will to continue on with the series. So while I might have enjoyed Star Fox Zero personally, it wasn't worth taking on a brand-new, highly controversial control scheme to put the series' future in possible jeopardy.

Mega Man X7 (PS2)

One thing you can count on with the classic Mega Man series is that each entry is of assured quality. Sure, I might have my reservations with Mega Man 9's penchant for throwing spikes and pits everywhere as a means to make the game more difficult in a cheaper way, but all in all, the series is consistent in quality. I wish I could say the same about Mega Man X. That's a sub-series of games that I prefer over classic Mega Man, but it also has two stinkers in the bunch. I'm going to focus on X's jump into the third dimension and the PlayStation 2 generation with Mega Man X7.

X7 is a project of poor design and even worse execution. It attempted to bring the Mega Man X series from 2D to 3D, and in using both as the design foundation, it failed at doing either competently. In 2D sections, the gameplay and level design are substandard compared to the fluidity and placement of objects, enemies, and obstacles in the traditional sprite-based Mega Man X games. Meanwhile, the 3D portions are harmed by a wonky camera, the same camera that isn't serviceable enough to make the transition between 2D and 3D segments of levels without some hangups.

Then, there's the fact that the titular character isn't even available right from the start. You actually have to unlock X as a playable character, instead using a duo of Zero and newcomer Axl, who got bombarded with hate for taking X's place early on in the game, as well as being associated with the "Mega Man X7" name in the first place. It's commendable that Capcom tried to do something new with the Mega Man X sub-series, but the company wouldn't find a better solution until the game installment after.

Bomberman: Act Zero (360)

Sometimes trying new things with old franchises is good. Sometimes it's not. Definitely not. When you try to take a colorful cartoon mascot like Bomberman and turn him into a mature character meant to excite edgy teens or whoever, the end result is Bomberman: Act Zero, rated "T" for "Totally idiotic." Retro gaming fans know all about the world and characters of the Bomberman series: cute animals, explosive gameplay, terrific multiplayer, tight controls, dystopian future, dark hero with realistic proportions... Wait. What the heck did you folks do to Bomberman!?

"Negative" is almost too kind to describe what people who played Bomberman: Act Zero actually thought of the game. With load times long enough to write a comprehensive list of better Bomberman games you could playing at the moment instead of Act Zero, solid characters and objects that can pass through one another with no regard for collision detection, repetitive textures that make being stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean looking at vast amounts of water seem more exciting, AI that is too good in one moment and just plain awful the next, and the inability to save your progress -- as if Konami was laughing at you for wasting your time on its game -- and you have a Bomberman game that was a total misfire. It was on a console where Konami perhaps thought maybe a Bomberman title could work if the game completely stripped itself of its own identity and followed the dark, gritty nonsense of the time. Thank goodness that Xbox 360 owners still had Bomberman Live!

Monday, December 11, 2017

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - "Rockin' Ya' for Hanukkah" Edition

Disclaimer: Contrary to this week's edition title, there are actually no rock songs featured in this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, but we can still celebrate tomorrow evening's beginning of Hanukkah to all of SPC's Jewish readers regardless!

It's an edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs spanning three generations of home consoles this week, starting with the new. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness brings us a sweeping orchestral overture to start things off. Following closely behind is the Evil Forest dungeon theme from Final Fantasy IX. Then, Mario Sports Mix and a little known Wii game called Opoona bring us some lovely music, too. Last on this week's edition is de Blob 2, also a Wii era game.

Either click the VGM volume name or the embedded video here in this article to hear each song and game represented. Also, check out the VGM Database for every past featured VGM volume on this weekly SuperPhillip Central staple. Now, let's get on to the music!

v1521. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4) - Star Ocean Forever ~ Overture

We begin this edition with Star Ocean's fifth outing, a modest budget affair with lots of backtracking and corner-cutting to save money. Despite my issues with the game, I played through it to completion (well, getting one of the several endings in the game) and overall enjoyed my time with it. (Though it has nothing on the second or third games in the Star Ocean series.) Star Ocean Forever's Overture version plays at the title screen of the franchise's games. It blares as boldly as ever to great effect. Many problems persist with Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, but Motoi Sakuraba's soundtrack is definitely not one of them.

v1522. Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - Danger in the Forest

Nobuo Uematsu is perhaps my favorite video game music composer in the industry. His soundtracks run the gamut of emotions and tickle my nostalgia bones splendidly. He was absolutely on a tear with his work on the Final Fantasy series, and my favorite of his during the PS1 era of games was Final Fantasy IX. It was a game that hearkened back to classic Final Fantasy games after multiple futuristic ones, and the soundtrack went right along with it to an epic medieval soundtrack featuring brilliant character themes, fantastic battle works, and dungeon themes such as this one for the Evil Forest.

v1523. Mario Sports Mix (Wii) - Peach's Castle

From one Squaresoft game to a Square Enix game, we have Mario Sports Mix up next with a catchy and jaunty tune played during matches at Peach's Castle. Mario Sports Mix is a bit of an underrated Mario sports game to me. I enjoyed all four sports in the package which included basketball, volleyball, hockey, and dodgeball. Masayoshi Soken composed the soundtrack, just like with Mario Hoops 3 on 3. This particularly talented composer would later go on to score a wide variety of songs for Final Fantasy XIV.

v1524. Opoona (Wii) - Bonbon Battle 1

Koei-Tecmo presented a whimsical role-playing game for the Nintendo Wii that players used the Nunchuk attachment of the Wii Remote exclusively to control Opoona through dungeons and in battles. Speaking of which, this battle theme might seem familiar to fans of Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyria Chronicles as it's the same composer, Hitoshi Sakimoto, who provided the music. This theme uses similar synth and sounds to what Sakimoto generally uses. Recently, Opoona got a guest starring role in Koei's Warriors All-Stars as one of the playable characters along the likes of Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa and Dead or Alive's Kasumi.

v1525. de Blob 2 (PS3, 360, Wii) - Boogaloo in Blue

Concluding this edition with more colorful and charming cartoon goodness, de Blob recently released for consoles on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The original de Blob was a Wii exclusive, but the sequel saw the series go multiplatform for the first time. The music of the de Blob series can be described as catchy, funky, jazzy, smooth, relaxing, and that just depends on which track you're listening to as you paint the games' levels with color. De Blob 2 is no different in this case, and thank goodness, as the soundtrack is just as fabulous as it was in the original Wii release.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (PS4) Launch Character Roster Trailer

A brand-new trailer for next month's Dissidia Final Fantasy NT has been revealed, and it shows off the 28 characters in the roster. Unfortunately, while four new characters were added from the previous PSP game's roster, six characters are currently missing such as FFVII's Tifa and FFX's Yuna. That said, a season pass promises more characters, and it's true that a lot of work goes in to creating each fighter presented in the game so I can't be too disappointed. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT launches exclusively on the PlayStation 4 in late January.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Announcement Trailer

Announced earlier this evening, Capcom's famed fighting game franchise Street Fighter celebrates its 30th anniversary. Coinciding with that is a collection of 12 arcade Street Fighter classics, four with online play, along with various goodies like a sprite viewer and sound test in the collection itself. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is ready to rumble on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC in May with an MSRP of $39.99.